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‘A hymn to life, love, family, and spirit’ DAVID MITCHELL, author of Cloud Atlas
The vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies.
***WINNER OF THE BARBELLION PRIZE***
***SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD***
In 1958, amongst the children born with spina bifida is Riva Lehrer. At the time, most such children are not expected to survive. Her parents and doctors are determined to ‘fix’ her, sending the message over and over again that she is broken. That she will never have a job, a romantic relationship, or an independent life. Enduring countless medical interventions, Riva tries her best to be a good girl and a good patient in the quest to be cured.
Everything changes when, as an adult, Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture. Their work is daring, edgy, funny, and dark-it rejects tropes that define disabled people as pathetic, frightening, or worthless. They insist that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Emboldened, Riva asks if she can paint their portraits-inventing an intimate and collaborative process that will transform the way she sees herself, others, and the world. Each portrait story begins to transform the myths she’s been told her whole life about her body, her sexuality, and other measures of normal.
Written with the vivid, cinematic prose of a visual artist, and the love and playfulness that defines all of Riva’s work, Golem Girl is an extraordinary story of tenacity and creativity. With the author’s magnificent portraits featured throughout, this memoir invites us to stretch ourselves toward a world where bodies flow between all possible forms of what it is to be human.
‘Riva Lehrer is a great artist and a great storyteller. This is a brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder’ AUDREY NIFFENEGGER
‘This astonishing, heart soaring and often shocking memoir of a Jewish woman with spina Bifida born in the 50’s is bright and dark, terrifying and wonderful. An ode to art and the beauty of disability’ CERRIE BURNELL
Luminous; a profound portrait of the artist as a young-and mature-woman; an unflinching social history of disability over the last six decades; and a hymn to life, love, family, and spirit * David Mitchell * Riva Lehrer is a great artist and a great storyteller. This is a brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder * Audrey Niffenegger * This searing personal history expands Lehrer's project of looking at our bodies inside and out, in all their queerness, fragility, and strength, into a stunning new dimension * Alison Bechdel * Vivid . . . unforgettable . . . It is the story of how someone who is fundamentally different made not a life that transcends that difference, but a life that lionizes it. This book expands our notion of what constitutes the human experience, and it does so with generosity and open-heartedness * Andrew Solomon * With deft painter's prose, Riva Lehrer helps us discover what it is to be human when others see us as broken. In Golem Girl, Lehrer gives us the gift, at long last, of our own crip beauty * Nicola Griffith, author of HILD * One of the most dedicated, stalwart, witty, funny people that I've ever met * Mat Fraser * Not your typical memoir about 'what it's like to be disabled in a non-disabled world . . . Lehrer tells her stories about becoming the monster she was always meant to be: glorious, defiant, unbound, and voracious. Read it! * Alice Wong, founder and director, Disability Visibility Project * Lehrer's story is a revelation of an inner subjective life-full of tragedy, love, and creativity-pushing against the external social stigmas, cultural narratives, and prejudices surrounding disability. She admits a felt kinship with other 'monsters' because their bodies were also 'built by human hands', but unlike them, she is her own purpose, her own meaning, her own unstoppable golem * Stephen Asma * Oy, what a story: Job, eat your heart out! In Riva Lehrer's life chronicle, an appalling fate (and I don't just mean the circumstances of her birth) gets visited upon an invincible character, and the result is a wincing-wise tale, by turns harrowing and hilarious, cut clean through with flecks of grace and beauty. Lehrer is one wry mensch, and an extraordinary kinstler to boot * Lawrence Weschler * Readers will be sucked into Lehrer's powerful memoir * Publishers Weekly * A chronicle of a free spirit who finds solace and purpose in creating art that represents the socially challenged body... [readers] will respond to Lehrer's remarkable resilience and robust sense of humor * Booklist (starred review) * Every bit as powerful as Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face ... An extraordinary memoir suffused with generosity, consistent insight, and striking artwork * Kirkus Reviews (Starred) * An extraordinary memoir in which Riva Lehrer charts with great humour and intimacy her life story, growing up in America with the spina bifida condition . . . Throughout this powerful book - which took her six and a half years to write - Lehrer draws the reader in, giving the sense of what it is like to be on the margins of society, and having metaphorically to shriek to get the mainstream to pay attention * Jewish Chronicle *
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